Sunday 25 June 2017

'Being the youngest sailor on start line takes the pressure off' - Lynch

Twenty-year-old Finn Lynch is based in Croatia. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Twenty-year-old Finn Lynch is based in Croatia. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Barry Lennon and Sean McGoldrick

Finn Lynch insists his life aboard the yachts of Croatia's sun-kissed Mediterranean has not always been "as glamorous" as it sounds.

His shoestring budget didn't allow him to splash the cash when he first attended the country's top sailing school despite sponsors' generous donations.

"I moved into an apartment with no heating, no TV and no internet. It was super cheap and that's why I chose it," he says.

"I was alone in a different country and trying to get into that Croatian team - not glamorous at all."

However, the 20-year-old fulfilled a long-held dream by making it into the Dalmatian country's top development team that he now trains with.

His coach Jozo Jakelic, who Lynch describes as "a big scary Croatian man", set him on course for the Olympics and taught him about Croat culture.

"The coaching is very different. In Ireland it's usually say one good thing, say one bad thing. There, it's tell it how it is," he says.

Lynch was surprised to become Ireland's youngest Olympic helmsman (the sailor in control of a boat's rudder) when he qualified for Rio in May.

"The goal for me was making the Tokyo Olympics, so to make these Games is just incredible. I'm the youngest guy on the start line and that takes the pressure off. I'm mostly just going to enjoy it," he says.

Lynch has been ahead of the game before, having won the U-21 men's Laser Radial title a year before sitting his Leaving Cert.

Annalise Murphy, who also sails out of Dún Laoghaire's National Yacht Club and is in the water today, previously tipped him to be a "future star" of the sport after her fourth place at the 2012 Olympics.

He spent six weeks in the Brazilian city during the run-up to the Games, preparing to contest today's men's Laser class race (5.05pm). However, Lynch's preparation took a blow earlier this year when he dislocated his shoulder following a serious fall from his bike.

"We use our shoulders a lot in sailing but I've recovered well since," he says.

"I don't think about it unless I'm asked about my shoulder in interviews. I still cycle but most of it now remains indoors."

Lynch's brother Ben will also be in Rio later this year as he is a coach for the Irish Paralympic sailing teams.

Their father introduced the brothers to sailing which fast became a passion - and an unusual one for a family from landlocked Carlow.

Lynch explains that the sport can be hard for his fellow county men, who are more comfortable with a Gaelic football, to get their heads around.

"The explanations started when I was 12 or 13 and not going to the parties on Saturday," he says.

"All my close friends know not to ask questions because they don't understand it.

"It's nice, they don't really care about sailing . . . so whenever I'm home in Carlow it's just relaxing to hang out with them."

Four years ago the exploits of the then 22-year-old Murphy grabbed the attention of the nation at the London Olympics and put sailing on the front pages for a couple of memorable days.

Murphy won the four opening races in Weymouth and looked destined for a podium finish. But it all drifted away in the medal race and she was cruelly denied a medal as she finished fourth in the Laser Radial event.

Of course, on reflection, being fourth in your debut Olympics is a wonderful achievement and unquestionably she is now a more experienced and wily campaigner.

Today she begins another bid to secure that elusive Olympic medal with two races. She knows what to expect in the Rio waters.

The lighter winds, which are expected off the Brazilian coast during the winter time, will be a big challenge. Her task will be to speed up her boat with less wind.

There are 11 races in total over the next week, culminating in the medal race next Monday when Murphy will be hoping to be in a position to challenge for that medal she missed out on four years ago in Weymouth.

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